Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Day 6 Riding WITH the Wind........Parking meters, frying pans and windmills!!

August 11, 2014
DesMoines, IA to Joliet, IL

We woke up in the first major city with tall buildings that we had been in since Portland, OR. We were in DesMoines, IA.

Big city....tall buildings.
We took a stroll along the river walk and found this cool bridge...
The bridge is dedicated to Women's Achievements. You can see the capitol building through the center of the bridge.

We think parking meters that take credit cards are cool. This meter is cool.

After exploring DesMoines' river-walk and parking meters, we headed east toward the world's third largest frying pan which is in Brandon, IA. As it turns out, the pan was not that far from my original bike route. However, back then, Iowa was scaring us. The roads were mostly not good and we were busy rethinking the southern v. northern route west. Taking even just an hour detour for a big frying pan wasn't even remotely on our mind.

Turns out, an hour is all we would be adding to the RETURN trip if we wanted to add the frying pan to our route. So we threw caution to the wind and went for it. Here's the story in pics.
This was our first sight of the frying pan. No banners, no signs, no welcoming committee. Just the pan, sitting in a community  center parking lot. We were the only car.
We of course couldn't miss a photo op to show off our new hats. Actually, since J looked better in the cowboy hat, it is now hers. I picked up the sporty Bruno Mars special you see here at yet another gas station. My brother in law DAVE, thinks we look like Bonnie and Clyde...just hanging out in Brandon, IA....by the frying pan.
I usually like to think things over before I make a really big decision. It's just the way I roll.  Here I am, considering jumping from  the frying pan into the tire.
Taking the plunge!!!
Going in deeper!

Jumping from the frying pan, into and all the way THROUGH the tire!!!

Being punished by the locals for milking the "frying pan into the fire" joke a little too long. Fortunately, I was only simmered for a little bit and then let go with the promise to never crack another corny joke in Iowa again. Seriously? I huskily bit my tongue as J twisted my ear so that not even a tiny kernel of corn humor would escape my lips until we had stalked through the maze of roads to Illinois. Fortunately we made it to Illinois without further incident. After Illinois, the trouble could start up all over again because, "Indiana wants me, Lord I can't go back there!" Ok. I'll stop now.

One last Bonnie and Clyde moment.

We were almost in Joliet, IL when J saw it. She would soon regret waking me up to see it.  My sleepy eyes opened wide!!! There, on the other side of the highway was a windmill blade!!!!  The very same type of blade that I had seen go past me on a flatbed truck when I was cycling through Iowa. We HAD to turn around!!!! 

Actually, we didn't HAVE to turn around. One of us wanted to keep going east. But this wasn't a dangerous mountain...it wasn't adding twenty five miles to the trip...it was just cool windmill blade at a westbound rest stop.

None of those arguments worked, so I basically just begged and pleaded and acted like a spoiled brat. That ALMOST worked. But I've played that card a little too often. So I promised to drive the rest of the way.  THAT worked.

We turned around and went back to examine this modern marvel. Remember, the windmill itself needs to be tall enough to allow this ginormous blade to swing completely around without coming even remotely close to the ground. When you look at them from a distance, they don't necessarily look that big. But looking at just ONE of the blades helps put it into perspective. Here's the pics below. At the very bottom is a gif of a video I took at the rest stop.

I did a  little research on them and this is something I found: The widely used GE 1.5-megawatt model, for example, consists of 116-ft blades atop a 212-ft tower for a total height of 328 feet.

Another article I read said that the tallest one in the world is over 700 feet!  Below is the video I did at the rest stop. 

Thank you J for indulging me!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Day 6 Riding WITH the wind. ..Roadpics 2

  somewhere in Illinois. ...
My, OUR first Dunkin Donuts since FOREVER !!!!!
Forget wind. Forget rain. Forget hills, heat, or saddle rash! Thirty days straight WITHOUT DUNKIN DONUTS is the new standard definition for "roughing it".
But it's all good now. Regular cream and sugar blueberry and vanilla flavoring AND a turbo shot. Those are the true ingredients of "civilization".

Day 6 Riding WITH the wind....Roadpics 1

We made it!

15 min starts now!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Days 4 &5 Riding WITH the wind...

August 9th & 10th
Burley, ID to Desmoine, IA

Nice Nancy and Zombie McDonalds

No serious drama to report. J and I are both fairly anxious to get home, so we've weeded out all of the stops we planned to visit on the way down to just one: THE WORLD'S LARGEST FRYING PAN.

Of course, as soon as you do anything like building the world's tallest building or making the world's largest frying pan, SOMEONE has to go and make something taller or bigger. 

So as of right now, according to Wikipedia (which is an accurate source because EVERYONE can edit it), the pan in Brandon, IA is currently the 3rd largest frying pan in the world. The other two are in Maine and North Carolina.  Been to Maine, NOT going to North Carolina. So Brandon, Iowa is it. We're just trying to get there before it drops out of the top 10.

We've been taking mostly I-80 back home, which actually would have been our route to Portland had Dusty not warned us off. His

Confirmation of our location
Even in the middle of nowhere, there are still RULES

advice was correct. As much as there was often NOTHING on our northern route, there is actually MORE nothing on this one. One of the local businesses shows a little self- aware humor of this fact in their logo! (see pic to right) The logo is apropos. Don't get me wrong, there are indeed small oasis gas stations and stores, with actual PEOPLE running them. But surrounding those oasis are miles and miles and miles of flat, grassy NOTHING! I didn't, but I wanted to ask, "Ok, so you work HERE, but where do you LIVE???? Is it like 100 miles away?"

Anyway, let's first talk about Nice Nancy. Nancy was our breakfast hostess at a Marriott where we stayed. We've been traveling for 51 days now, and have encountered some wonderful people. Nancy inspired me to write the comment card below. I am also going to send an email to Marriott. My main reason for doing this is that Marriott is a multi-million dollar corporation that is probably not paying Nancy commensurate with the benefit which her work is visiting upon them. In other words, Nancy is making money for Marriott and I think they should share more of it with her. I took a picture of Nancy, but it did not come out. Sorry Nancy! Hope Marriott comes through for you!

Now for the Zombie McDonalds. I've mostly said sweet and innocuous things about pretty much everything....except for Iowa, so I've felt no qualms sharing addresses, names, etc. but the following passage is NOT sweet or innocuous, but it is TRUE...at least in my world.

Somewhere, between Oregon and Maine, there is a McDonalds that J and I visited that is run by ZOMBIES! I took no pictures and will not even share the state this store was in, but I SWEAR they were all super skinny, gaunt, pale, and stared at you with an empty, "I"m going to eat your brains as soon as I can focus" look. We would have left, however, the customers looked fairly normal, and appeared to have intact, uneaten brains so we stayed. But the experience was bizarre.

Here's a few pics from days 4&5.

Southern Idaho, going through the Rockies. This pic does NOT do justice. We wound through a path that literally was at the bottom of some VERY tall mountains. I personally felt that this route was far more dramatic and "Rocky" like than the northern route which I cycled. J disagreed with me, but since she's not blogging anymore, I win by default. 

Southern Idaho buttes.

We made a sort of nap area in the back of the truck. This J taking a well deserved rest. Scott told me to tell her that she is my wife and my best friend. I'm hoping that she already knows that she is basically my EVERYTHING. 

Growing up, a company called "Table Talk" made these awesome single serving pies. This the largest most varied selection of single serving pies I have ever seen. It was at a Super Walmart in wither Idaho, Nebraska or Iowa.

Heading home through the Idaho Rockies.

We still haven't made it to the World's Third Largest Frying Pan yet. Probably tomorrow. I know you're on pins and needles about this!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Day 3: Riding WITH the Wind....

August 8
Pendleton, OR to Burley, ID

Green to Brown, and Losing Spearfish!

I know, what you probably want to hear about first is "losing Spearfish!", but you'll just have to wait...or cheat and scroll down. Your choice.

Below you'll see some catch up pics from Days 1 & 2. As you travel from Portland to points east along the Columbia River, the striking change you notice is the change from green to brown. As I've already mentioned, this change happens at The Dalles. The Dalles should be renamed "The Turning Point". I've also already mentioned how depressingly BARREN the landscape is east of The Dalles. Well as it turns out, the vehicle you are using to travel tends to help color your impression of the world. Allow me to explain pictorially.

One of our first stops traveling east of Portland was the well known Multnomah Falls. The beauty and elegance of the falls is vastly different to the raw power and brute force of Niagara Falls. Comparing the two using the same exact criteria is just not fair. I'm only mentioning this because, at first I DID compare the two on the brute force scale, leaving Multnomah looking like a leaky faucet that someone forgot to turn off. On the other hand, on the elegance scale, Niagara looks like a schoolyard bully that needs to be punched in the nose. A more fitting description for both of them is that Niagara is the Big Bang, and Multnomah is the resultant elegant universe that it created.

Go a bit further east and you encounter the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks. This structure is man-made but there was a natural formation on this spot around 1100 A.D. that damned up the river and created a vast inland sea. In 1927 Charles Lindbergh flew his plane UNDER the bridge!

The view of the bridge above, and this picture was taken from the most scenic restaurant that we encountered on our trip. It is called Char Burger. Think about the name. Then think about the two views you see above. Do they match? Not for me. When I hear "Char Burger" I think, Hardies, Dairy Queen...Arby's, which typically have a view of a parking lot or a K-Mart...not THIS! I give credit to Jen for finding this place when we were on our way to Portland. She stopped here to wait for me to catch up on Jenard. I feel sad when I think of her sitting there in this beautiful place, all by herself. I'm glad we got to enjoy the view together as we headed "back East".

This is a painting of the original highway that ran through the Columbia Gorge. The painting was inside the Char Burger. One last note on the Char Burger, the food was WONDERFUL. In addition, this restaurant is owned by the Best Western right next door. So, if you stay at the Best Western in Cascade Locks, you get a FREE breakfast at a wonderful restaurant with an awesome view.

This was one of the last pics I took as we approached The Dalles.

This was one of the first pics I took after passing The Dalles. Notice anything missing?  Like TREES?????

The dams along this river seem to be ALWAYS churning up electricity. It's a pretty spectacular sight.

I was going for an artsy fartsy shot which juxtaposed both the landscape I was seeing out the window and that which I was leaving behind in the mirror.

I was trying to take artsy-fartsy shots, because sitting in an air conditioned truck, traveling east, WITH the wind is a vastly different experience than traveling on a bicycle, in 95 degree heat AGAINST the wind. On the bike, all I wanted to see was even a SLIVER of a tree, twig or ANY shade at all.
In the truck I was able to recognize the grandeur and the beauty of it all.
Magnificent moon-like hills....

... that seemed to roll on forever....
On the bike, all I saw was an endless road, with unrelenting sun and no place to pee.
 From the truck, it all seemed good. I still prefer green over brown, but brown can be awe inspiring.... when you're not overheating.

One shopping item we still needed to take care of was getting a blanket and pillow. Now that we had the back seat again (for the most part) we needed a way to make it comfy enough to sleep on, just in case we decided to drive in shifts, with the non-driver sleeping.

We stopped at a JC Penny in La Grande, OR. Like so many western towns, the entire downtown area seems to have been frozen in time somewhere around the 40's or 50's. Very well-kept, but still like visiting another era. Walking into the JC Penny only reinforced that feeling.
JC Penny in downtown La Grande. Reminded me of the Woolworths on Farmington avenue in Bristol, CT circa 1950's & 60's.

As we drove, J got a hankering for another pie from Old Chicago. Remember the glowing reviews we gave the Old Chicago in Gillette, WY? We found another one at the Boise Mall in Boise, ID. By the way, do yourself a favor. Stop pronouncing it "BOY-zee" right now. Some day, if you're ever actually IN Boise, the locals will be pleased to hear you pronouncing it "BOY-see". They're pretty nice anyway, but saying their city name correctly will make them that much happier, and nicer. It's kind of a Gerard v. Gerald thing.

We had yet another spectacular pizza at Old Chicago, then decided to walk it off by taking a stroll around the mall. Jen visited Sephora, and I found myself mystified, stupified, amazified by one of the coolest stores I had ever seen. It was actually a kiosk in the middle of the mall, but it was dedicated EXCLUSIVELY to HELICOPTERS!!!  I have always been fascinated with Chinook helicopters. A Chinook landed on our school football field one year. It was such a fantastic sight! So when I saw this bad boy. I just had to take a pic. I pride myself for having the self restraint to NOT buy it. I know myself. After playing with the thing for maybe 5 to 10 hours MAX, I would have abandoned it in the garage and gone for a bike ride. But it was still pretty cool to look at.

And then we lost the truck.

I know you think that I'm handling this pretty calmly, but we were NOT very calm at the time. And honestly, we're still a little shook up. Our bikes, ALL our stuff, and Spearfish himself....GONE. It's almost impossible to describe that sinking, trembling feeling that you are stuck over two thousand miles away from home with only your basic I.D., one credit card and your cell phone and of course your spouse, who also only has the basic I.D., one credit card and her cell phone.

Here's how it happened: We had parked fairly close to Old Chicago. We ate, and then explored our respective interests. We didn't give a single thought to safety or security. The mall clientele seemed to be basic, peace loving people. The area felt safe and friendly.

But as we exited the mall and wandered into the parking lot, that whole feeling changed. It wasn't the people or the parking lot that changed...it was the truck. Spearfish was simply NOT THERE.

We looked...and looked. We clicked the lock button...nothing. I held it up high...nothing. I pushed the panic button: the one that makes the alarm sound and drives you crazy if you push it accidentally....NOTHING.

The sight and sound of NOTHING was becoming deafening. Both our pulses started to race and our hearts were creeping slowly up into our throats. How could this be happening? I had heard of thieves staking out parking lots for choice vehicles. And I figured, a thief who knew both bikes and cars would figure they hit the mother load.

But why OUR truck?  Why OUR bikes???? This completely SUCKED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And then we found him. Spearfish was sitting in the row almost directly in front of Old Chicago, exactly where we had left him. This discovery happily ended the longest ten minutes of our entire trip.

But how did this happen? The short answer is J and I had collectively had a brain fart. We were both so used to using parking places way AWAY from stores that we had simply assumed that we had done so this time. We usually park far away from other cars because Spearfish is so darned big. Add the fully extended bike rack and it feels to US like we're trying to park a Winnebago. So we lesson our angst by parking in the wide open spots, far away, and getting a little extra exercise by walking back to the store.

But today was different. We had lucked out and found an easy spot right next to the mall entrance. The reason our key wasn't working is that we were searching in a completlely different UNIVERSE than where Spearfish actually was.

And that ended our story for Day 2 HAPPILY.

Ps. At this writing, we are currently in Day 4 and en route to the world's largest frying pan.  You'll have to wait for THAT story till tomorrow.